By closely examining how a customer is acquired, retained, and (potentially) lost—call it the customer lifecycle—you can determine the points of strength and weakness of the process, and attach relative values to your customers based on how long they've bought from you and the journeys they've taken.

That will help you improve efficiency in your marketing and support spend, and align your efforts with your main profit drivers.

The goal is to consistently achieve iterative improvement by regularly examining your customer acquisition and retention processes and identifying opportunities to make them better.

This article will get into the specifics of how you can assess your customer lifecycle so that you improve it. Let's begin.

Map out your successes and failures

Before we get to examining what your marketing process looks like today, you must learn all you can from how you've handled customers and prospective customers thus far. So take your most notable case studies—your biggest triumphs and your greatest failures—and map them to lifecycle stages to see what you can glean.

Now, everyone naturally agrees that a customer lifecycle has stages, but opinions differ on what exactly they should be. That said, it doesn't really matter which labels you use; the important thing is that find a breakdown that makes sense when applied to your sales funnel.

For the sake of this article, we'll use the following structure:

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image of Victoria Greene

Victoria Greene is a branding consultant and freelance writer who helps customers achieve their business goals. She writes about e-commerce and online retail on her VictoriaEcommerce blog.

Twitter: @vickyecommerce